The following is a guest post by RHONDA PRYOR, a recently retired senior manager in the Australian aged care sector. We are hoping Rhonda may become a regular contributor to Troppo.
If you woke up to read the Government had announced that they have a totally new approach to State Schooling, which was to use it solely to make a profit for private and faith based organisations, what would you think?
You read on to discover some of the more chilling features of this new approach include no teacher/pupil ratios – just have as many kids in the class as you want. Oh, and yes, in our new approach to education we won’t even have to employ trained teachers, or if we do it will be ok to employ those that no one else wants. And don’t worry if, in this new corporate profit-making model, the kids get out of hand; it will be ok to medicate them into submission. As for the school canteen you can feed them anything or, on some days nothing at all, and make a profit out of that as well. This opening up of the education system for the sole purpose of being a profit-making enterprise will mean that not only private schools can charge fees, but to ensure a place for your kid in this visionary model of schooling, you might have to sell the family home.
If you read this I suspect you would be outraged, and the Education Minister soon looking at their options, yet this is how we operate aged care in this country.
Aged Care in Australia now primarily exists to make a profit for the shareholders of national or international companies, or to fill the coffers of the already rich churches. This only happens because Federal Governments, both Coalition and Labor, incrementally decided it was perfectly reasonable to commodify our aged and vulnerable.
Twenty years ago the number of qualified nurses and staff employed in aged care was codified, as was the amount of money that had to be spent on catering, laundry and cleaning. All this is gone as each aged care home can now employ as many, or as few, nurses as they decide. Sadly, nurses who work in aged care are generally older, not career focused, have not up-skilled and would struggle to get a job working in the hospital sector. I’ve spoken to many enthusiastic young nurses who give aged care a wide berth. Who can blame them as they would inevitably end up working as sole practitioners in minefields of bad practice, working only with staff who have completed a 6-week training programme in aged care at some Mickey Mouse training organisation? These same poorly qualified aged care workers can probably get paid more working in a pizza shop, where they don’t have to change continence pads and feed people slop.
Because every aged care home can spend whatever it likes on food, an aged care provider can spend as little as $5.00 per day on meals for a resident. I’m reminded of a Gary Larson cartoon of two guys who find themselves in Hell; one says to the other “they think of everything – even the coffee is cold”. In most aged care settings, when it comes to food and coffee, this is pretty much how it is.
Then we have the drug of choice in aged care – risperidone. This is an anti-psychotic medication widely used in aged care, particularly to control the “behaviours” of residents with dementia, or any other “behaviours” staff don’t like. Basically, risperidone is a chemical restraint cheaply available on the PBS. Never mind that all the literature around dementia and medication indicates that risperidone actually exacerbates confusion and memory issues for people with dementia – it’s cheap and families don’t know enough to ask questions. When there are too few and not properly trained staff, it’s just easier to drug them up than to provide informed care, support and choice.
If you end up in aged care and you or your family want you to have your own room and bathroom, then in most cases you have to sell the family home to pay the “accommodation price”. Too bad if you don’t have one to sell, or you just have a little bit of money set by, because this means you won’t be able to afford anything more than a substandard room, having to share with someone you neither know nor possibly like and waiting your turn to go to the bathroom.
The Government will tell you that all of this isn’t true; that we have the Aged Care Quality Agency to monitor and police standards in aged care. This is bunkum, what we have is an organisation that is primarily interested in documentation or paper work. If a provider has a document that says it does something, then it’s accepted without the Quality Agency looking at what actually happens. In reality the Aged Care Quality Agency is a paper tiger which rarely visits aged care homes apart from the formalised accreditation visit once every 3 years.
Voluntary or involuntary euthanasia, and that little green pill, sure looks attractive in comparison.
- Also see Reports of poor standards in aged care are just the tip of the iceberg (Guardian Australia).